NEW YORK -- The next iteration of the internet is here, and it's called the Metaverse.
It's essentially digital platforms with places for people to gather and experience life in virtual reality.
Some are looking at this as the new frontier with an opportunity to actually own a piece of real estate there.
The concept of owning real estate in the Metaverse is both simple and surreal: you buy and own a piece of property, but it's in a virtual world.
"It looks a little bit like real estate in a digital video game-like form," said Andrew Kiguel, CEO and founder of Tokens.com.
Kiguel invests in and builds Web 3 businesses and owns "property" on a Decentraland platform.
"Decentraland has approximately 45,000 parcels available for development," Kiguel told CBS2's Chris Wragge. "There's a fashion neighborhood, a gaming neighborhood, a museum district. There's parks and rivers and all kinds of different areas."
Platforms are designed to use on any device, so no VR goggles are necessary.
Experts say a primary purpose for owning real estate in the Metaverse right now is for advertising and special events. One example is a virtual fashion show and shopping experience in a newly built Decentraland building.
The property owner could theoretically charge rent for use of the space, monetizing their investment. Kiguel says thousands participated in that event, and interest is growing overall.
"Last year, the visitor traffic in Decentraland grew by 3,300%," he said.
Property purchases are made in cryptocurrency and prices vary by platform and parcel. Some cost the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars.
On the Superworld platform, for example, there are 64 billion parcels for sale with some going for as little as $200.
"What you're actually buying is virtual land covering the surface of the Earth at any location that you want on the planet," said Hrish Lotlikar, co-founder and CEO of Superworld.
Lotlikar says the structure of the platform is basically a virtual overlay of the Earth, dividing it all into blocks.
"People know where they live ... know where they go on vacation, know where they have a business," he said. "They come to Superworld, they buy those locations of virtual real estate that correspond the places in the world that are special to them."
The speculation is the more popular places will ultimately increase in value, but as with any investment, there's risk.
Corby Pryor, a founder of the Metaverse Infrastructure Company, explains, "When you're buying Metaverse real estate, you're actually just betting on a platform being successful, and that your space within that platform is going to be used by many."
Pryor owns property on another platform that he says he has no plans for right now and knows there may be an uncertain future.
"The downside is that your investment goes to zero," he said.
"There's only a certain allocated space, and if you want to be part of it, you need to be buying into it," said Claudia Pryor, a Metaverse creative coordinator.
Costa is one of a growing number of women leaders in this industry. She's also a Metaverse property owner.
"I bought it as an investment, and I've also, like, helped a couple of my friends who are up-and-coming fashion designers or artists use it as an exhibition space, for example," she said.
She says it was a lot cheaper than getting a storefront in SoHo, but value today and long-term is relative, especially in an uncertain crypto market.
"The burst of the bubble was a good thing, in fact, because there was a lot of noise and a lot of things ... not delivering value," Pryor said.
Snoop Dogg and Justin Bieber were early investors in Metaverse real estate, and even in a virtual world, celebrity neighborhoods are always going to be more expensive.
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